Welcome Drew “Rukes” Ressler as our next profiled photographer!
What caught my eye with Drew was his work, as well as creating his own niche market photography business. There are lots of underserved markets in photography, all you have to do is find and love doing it. Drew certainly does.
Now I don’t get starstruck at all…. but when I saw Drew got to hang out with Motley Crue, there’s was a level of jealousy I’ve never felt before. :)
Without further ado, Drew Ressler.
Tell the CR Readers a bit about yourself.
My name is Drew Ressler, 30 years old, but many people call me Rukes.
I grew up in New York, worked in the videogame industry and ended up moving to Los Angeles in 2004 to try something new. As a side job to working in the videogame industry in LA, I would take my new Canon 20D and go to clubs to see the DJs I have always liked/wanted to hear. A lot of them, especially the ones who were into photography, saw I had an eye for it even though I was just doing it all for fun, and told me to stick with it.
I decided to switch gears from the standard “club/party photographer” that takes pics of random people and instead just focus on the DJs, which was pretty much creating a new niche.
Within a few years I started making a name for myself, and now I’m considered one of the biggest DJ photographers in the world. When I’m not touring around the world with someone like Deadmau5 or Tommy Lee, I work for two competing promoters in Los Angeles; clubs with Giant and massive events for Insomniac.
When did you first pick up a camera? No idea really, my memories of cameras before I had my own were getting disposable ones here and there, or when someone said “hey, can you take our picture with my camera?”
What was your first digital camera?
A Canon PowerShot G3 for my 23rd birthday.
What do you primarily shoot?
DJ’s/Musicians mainly. Either at a club or large event, or on tour.
Name one Photographer that has influences you the most.
I actually don’t have one, I never have paid attention to many other photographers at all. If I start looking at what they do, I will start to overanalyze and compare too much; I like just concentrating on my own work. But if I really had to choose, maybe Annie Leibovitz when she did a lot of candids of musicians.
Any formal training in photography?
None at all.
Do any books or web sites stick out that helped you learn?
I think a majority of my learning was just trying settings out, with a little help from the instruction booklet, and also reading some articles on PhotoNotes.org
I think it was just the Canon 20D, when looking for a camera in 2004, was considered the best, compared to Nikon’s alternative. Looking at the current market, I still prefer canon since they definitely have a leg-up in very low-light lenses. I don’t think I could live without the 85mm f/1.2 II, something Nikon doesn’t have.
What cameras and lenses do you use?
Right now I have a Canon 1Ds MkIII with the 85mm f/1.2L II, 24-70 f/2.8L, 14mm f/2.8L II, 100mm Macro f/2.8L II, Tilt-Shift 90mm f/2.8, 70-200 f/2.8L II, 24mm f/1.4L II, 15mm Fisheye f/2.8, Canon Extender 1.4x III
If you could only have one lens, what would it be?
Other than making up an ultimate lens, I can’t do without the 85mm f/1.2 II. It’s too amazing!
Describe your computer and software workflow.
I just connect my camera to my PC, import all the RAW files, load them up in Lightroom 3, do some post on some pics, export them to JPEG. Then I load up Jalbum and create a gallery to upload to my site.
Name one photographer you would like to take a portrait of?
Don’t have one.
Name one public figure you would like to take a portrait of?
I’m not big on portrait photography, so I guess anyone that asked :)
Something you’re still learning?
Photography. Always something new to learn all the time, especially with new lenses, cameras and venues. Since just about 100% of my work is all severe low-light, it’s always a challenge, since most of the available light is completely random.
What is your greatest photographic fear?
Losing my equipment somewhere, especially when flying. Even though it’s all insured, whenever someone tries to check my bag at an airline (even though my bag is both carry-on and check-in safe) I still have the fear of them just saying “Oops, we don’t know where it is”.
Something you’re saving up for?
1Ds MkIV. Canon needs to hurry up with it :)
What photographic item do you wish you had designed?
Probably the Lightsphere. Something so simple that works pretty well in most situations.
Your favourite film (movie) of all time?
That’s a tough one, I have hundreds of Blu-Rays and DVDs so it’s hard to pick one top one. Possibly “Big Trouble In Little China”. Then again there are movies such as “The Goonies” and “Yellow Submarine” too.
Is photography your sole provider of income?
Yes, it is now. I did work my day job in the videogame industry for about a year into my photography until I was comfortable switching over completely. Especially with the recent launch of http://prints.rukes.com that helps a lot :)
Did you mean to be a pioneer in your very specific genre of photography?
Not at all, it was just an accident! When I was first doing what I did around 2004, I was usually the only person in the club with a SLR. My main reason for switching to just DJs was the amount of drama you have to deal with when photographing people. They are often pretty drunk, take forever to get a good pic they like, and bump into your gear. So it was a combination of safety for my equipment, coupled with the realization that if I spend 5 minutes with a random person, that’s 5 minutes I could have used to work on getting an amazing shot of the DJ, who isn’t going to spill a drink on your gear or immediately ask to see the pic you just took.
The way I figure it is that you can take tons of pics of people in a club, and you can label it anything and nobody would know the difference. If I took pictures of the DJ mainly, people could instantly tell who the gallery was about and where it was.
I also figure that, although sex sells and if I take a picture of a really hot girl, that pic would get tons of views, I don’t want to be one of the many photographers that do that.
I also would rather take a huge epic crowd or DJ shot that EVERYONE loves, rather than a picture of a person that just the person I took the picture of cares about.
When you started to tour with DJ’s, did you ever have to put your own money out there to travel?
Yeah, in the beginning to get my name out I did make some sacrifices to get my name out there, so I did some free gigs as well as flying myself to WMC. Nowadays I still do the occasional free gigs for friends to help them out, though.
Favourite place you’ve travelled to?
Tokyo, Japan. It’s been years since I have been back, so I’m planning on going back sometime in 2011 finally! A close second was the MTV Video Music Awards 2010 if that counts as a place :)
Least favourite place?
It’s a tough call since there hasn’t really been a huge standout horrible place for me. So far, the worst was being stranded in London for about a week due to the crazy snowstorm this past December at the very end of a tour with Deadmau5. We luckily all had a hotel room, but cabin fever set in pretty quickly, and all I really wanted to do was find a flight home ASAP.
Any PG rated interesting story about life on the road?
I think Deadmau5 can tell it best with his post on it: http://choleric-mau5.blogspot.com/2010/08/dave-dave-dave.html I managed to stay off to the sidelines; so when everyone’s wristbands were being cut, I just pretended I was a random photographer that wandered over. On top of that, I was lucky and my cloth wristband was able to be taken on and off (the teeth to lock it in apparently weren’t working) so I was able to give my wristband to the tour manager so he could go back in to the festival and have a talk and get all the wristbands back.
Best business decision you’ve made?
I think it’s the switch to just photographing DJs at events. That made me stand out amongst the rest. Looking back, not being able to foresee the crazy boom in “person with a camera” photography at clubs and what seems like everyone and their mother wanting to come to a club with a DSLR, it was a huge boon. Nowadays any DJ will just think of me for good event pics, rather than grouping me in with all the other photographers.
Do you have any employees, 2nd photographers or helpers?
Nope, it’s all 100% me.
Any plans to expand your business employing more photographers?
I get tons of offers all the time, but it just wouldn’t work out for me. I want to make sure all the pics on rukes.com come from me, so if I ended up bringing another photographer on board, my site would only be as good as their worst photos. Not to mention all the time I put focusing on my work, I probably wouldn’t have the time to teach someone else in the field.
Do you process your own images or farm it out?
I process all the images myself. I don’t understand how someone could do that, actually…just seems weird taking your own images and having someone else do what they want to them.
Do you spend any money on marketing, or does the industry come to you?
Not anymore actually. I did a run of rukes.com shirts a few years ago for the diehard fans to wear now and then, but a majority of my marketing was business cards. I would make tons and hand them out all over. I recently realized I haven’t given out any cards in a year or two, as my site has been growing like crazy just on word of mouth. I still carry some business cards with me just in case someone wants one, though. But pretty much anyone that wants me to photograph for them will come to me and ask.
One piece of advice you’d give people that want to be photographers professionally.
Do what you want to do to make yourself happy, never worry about anyone else. If I spend all my time looking at other photographer’s works and going “oh man I wish I could take pictures like that”, I wouldn’t have just focused on my work 100% and developed my own style. Also be respectful to other photographers. With the rise in people easily being able to get digital SLRs, there is still an order. A lot of photographers new to clubs don’t realize there usually is an in-house or the DJ’s photographer and usually they only get stage access. Too many photographers think having a camera means you can go wherever you want or do whatever you want, then complain when they can’t.
Thanks to Drew for taking the time to talk to us and show us some of his work. Be sure to head over to his web site to check out more of his great work.
Enjoy a few more images below.